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Joss Whedon's Superhero Masterclass

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The Avengers Assemble director’s tips on letting the good guys shine on the big screen.

Be helpful and respectful

“I initially went in to help [Marvel producer] Kevin Feige on Avengers Assemble, because I like to be helpful to people I respect who are doing things I like. So I started off looking at the script, saying, ‘I’ll critique this for you.’ And then Marvel were like, ‘Well, if you were going to write it, what would you do?’ The more I thought about it, the more I became intrigued by the heroes – these incredibly dysfunctional people.”

Keep childhood dreams alive

“I’ve wanted to make a movie of a comic book as long as I have been reading comic books. I don’t feel like anybody really cracked the code until Christopher Nolan. Batman Begins was really exciting. I thought I was going to get a turn with that franchise as well, but the series is over.”

Partying is fine if it keeps everyone happy

“I don’t care if we all party on set. Chris [Hemsworth] did invite me to a party at his house, but I’d already arranged to go out with the crew that night. Directing Avengers was incredibly like being a teacher, because when all the actors were together, they wouldn’t shut up. They were all gossiping and laughing and having a great time. I was like: ‘You’re supposed to be arguing and we’re supposed to be rolling.’”

There is no ‘I’ in team

“On Avengers, somebody said, ‘Oh, you’re going to have to deal with all these egos.’ The biggest ego on set was mine [laughs]. Everyone has an ego; you need one. It’s part of the human psyche, but nobody had this idea that they were bigger than what was going on, or that somebody else was out to get them. The only complaints I got were, ‘Why do I not have more time with him on screen?’ I was like, ‘The movie is getting very long!’”

Stick to the rules

“You’re always working within rules. Even filming Shakespeare you know you have to interpret the script and you can’t change anything. You can put a scene in a different place, or take little liberties but, by and large, you can’t change the words. With Avengers, Marvel was extremely clear about what it wanted – this structure, this attitude. I said, ‘Well, those are all good for me, so let me fill in the blanks.’”

Step away from the internet

“I’m careful of being on the internet, because all it takes is one troll and you don’t feel good for a month. The fan community I deal with is very sweet; true fans. What worried me with Avengers was taking on something that isn’t mine, that very much belongs to the fans. But, really, I was one of them – I was reading Avengers when I was 11 [laughs]. I felt in my heart that not only was this a sensible idea for a movie, but it also needed to be done. So I was hoping I wasn’t going to let them down.”

Broaden your horizons

“I’m dying to make a musical or an album or a ballet. Anything to do with music or dance – they are my favourite things in the world. I’d really like to make a period piece. One in which there is no green screen, just lovely outfits.”

Don’t turn to the dark side

“I have dreamt about [directing Star Wars] – I own lightsabers, I have lightsaber fights – but for me it would have been about finding out what the restrictions were. What is expected of you. If it was: ‘We need Jar Jar to sing in this bit,’ I’d be like, ‘OK, good meeting.’ I couldn’t be happier that JJ [Abrams] is doing it. Star Trek was masterful.”

Keep your friends close

“[I have a group of collaborators] that I refer to as ‘keepers’. Every show you have a few takeaways who stay in your life.”

Then do it all again

The Avengers 2 [due 2015] is a second frame. Characters who didn’t get time together in the first one will do this time, and characters who didn’t get the spotlight, will. Now that everybody has been introduced, I feel like there is time to make a film about the team instead of just about the formation of the team.”

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is at cinemas nationwide from 14 June

(Image: Rex Features)

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